Friday, April 21, 2017

Researchers Find Exercise to Keep Us Young At Heart: High Intensity Interval Training

Story Highlights:
  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is short, rigorous workouts, which mix short intervals of cardiovascular training with short intervals of strength conditioning.
  • A study suggests HIIT slows down the aging process since its workout routine trains the body to fight off infectious diseases.                              
  • Besides health benefits, people enjoy HIIT because their classes are team-based, but also individualized by helping people realize how much they can push their bodies.

For people trying to stay healthy into their old age, new research suggests that spending two hours at the gym, running at a slow pace on a treadmill, may not provide long-lasting benefits.  Mayo Clinic researchers from Rochester, MN, found evidence of a workout to help people maintain their youth without spending too much time at the gym: high-intensity interval training, or HIIT.  While the study acknowledges that everyone needs to spend time working out, it suggests that short and quick workouts can reduce signs of aging if the workout is performed at a high and intense pace.  

Compared to an hour-long, steady-paced swim, a HIIT class can be as short as 20 minutes.  Not only do these workouts engage participants by incorporating various exercises that intertwine strength conditioning with cardiovascular activities, individuals will reap more rewards in this short time, as long as they are working—and restingat an intense pace.

HIIT classes implement "circuit training," meaning individuals spend set times at different workout stations before rotating to their next assigned workout station.  Each station presents new opportunities to use different workout materials and machinery.

Trish Boddy, who specializes in HIIT, has coached interval classes for 15 years at a private gym in North Palm Beach, FL.  Since she started coaching, she notices more people understanding the benefits HIIT offers.

"[In HIIT classes], we like to work all different parts of the body ... with core, cardio, and power intervals," explains Boddy.

One of Boddy's popular interval classes is "Shockwave," where participants confront eight circuit stations, consisting of weight training, lunges, stability development with a medicine ball, and core strengthening with a bosu (a heavyweight that people try to lift above their heads).  At the center of these circuits is the rowing station, through which participants compete for the furthest, recorded distance throughout the class' duration.

In Boddy's most intense interval training class, "Tabata," students spend 20 seconds at each station and take a 10 second rest period.  It is short intervals like these, that research has now proven to be worth the sweat.

"What this does ... is great for the metabolism, and it's great for sustaining energy because you can really work hard for those short blocks, and take that quick recovery and come right back in," says Boddy.

David Long, Jerome Kern, and Ellen Latham arguably understood this key concept—that the science behind HIIT works—when they decided to develop Orangetheory fitness.

Since launching in 2010, Orangetheory Fitness has become a franchise, gaining notoriety in 45 states and 10 countries, not just for its rigorous, hour-long, HIIT classes, but also for its educational, science-oriented approach to exercise.  Orangetheory's classes even incorporate heart rate monitors for students to make goals and see which of Orangetheory's 5 heart rate zones they have achieved in the class. This technology, helps students feel what intensity is on a personal, fitness level.

Orangetheory students strive to work beyond a low heart rate, where their bodies rely on help from oxygen.  Students, instead, aim for a high, "orange zone" level, heart rate, which indicate the body works so hard, it relies on energy from muscles—not oxygen.  

"HIIT interval training is about trying to get your body in the higher levels and lower levels at different times," says Trevor Frobose, an Orangetheory trainer in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.  "If you look at the Orangetheory model, we want to be in specific zones, heart rate-wise, for different amounts of times.  The higher we are in certain levels,  the different carbohydrates we burn.  The lower levels, or aerobic levels—with oxygen—we burn fewer carbohydrates and more fat."

Frobose explains that moving one's heart rate between high and low levels slows the body's aging process and trains the body to work through illness, diseases and other infections.  When a person ages, muscle cells start declining, which leads to a decrease in the individual's energy level.  By aiming for a high heart rate, one can be assured, the workout will improve the mitochondria's production of cells, which keeps adults youthful and energized.

The research in the journal, Cell Metabolism, provides hopeful results for older adults practicing HIIT.  The Mayo Clinic researchers spent 12 weeks analyzing 72 male and female participants' health and fitness activity: half of the group consisted of younger adults (ages 18-30) and the other half consisted of older adults (ages 65-80).  

The researchers separated these participants into groups; each was assigned a specific workout regimen to consistently practice for 12 weeks: weight training, cardiovascular training, or HIIT.  By the end of the study, researchers were surprised to see that HIIT stood out for significantly helping participants of all ages, at the cellular level.  

By the end of the study, researchers found that the younger and older adults increased their body's mitochondrial capacity by 49 percent and 69 percent, respectively.

Susan Scutti, a reporter for CNN, likens mitochondria to "tiny batteries," which produce the body's "much-needed energy."  As mitochondria deteriorate with age, Jennifer Trilk, a professor of physiology and exercise science at University of South Carolina's School of Medicine Greenville, suggests so does the body's capacity to withstand contagious diseases.

An explanation for the HIIT groups' increased mitochondria capacity is indicated by the researcher's review of the participant's biopsied muscle cells.  The findings reveal that HIIT participants activated almost twice the number of genesor DNAin the workout process, compared to the other groups.

"If we think of the cell as a corporate hierarchy, genes (DNA) are the executives issuing orders to their middle managers: messenger RNA," says Scutti.

Proteins and cells carry out tasks because of the DNA.  It is this DNA that rejuvenates dying cells and makes it possible for older adults to draw new energy from their muscles, which prevents suffering down the road.

"With the highest levels of intensity ... you get more burn and caloric expenditure, than you would maintaining [an exercise at one pace]," said Frobose. "HIIT interval is all about powering up and powering back.  You will get more burn with the highest levels of intensity, even with the shortest amount of time, with a recovery, than you would maintaining a pace."  

What the "orange theory" hypothesized correctly is its emphasis on working towards an "orange zone" level heart rate; one which requires its students to go "all out" in their work out, attempting to use 92-100% of their heart rate by pulling energy from their muscles.  Ultimately, this workout keeps its participants young at heart, as they work with a team and exercise their bodies to their fullest potential, knowing it won't be long before they can rest.